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Biden Sends U.S. Forces To Protect Israel’s Borders for the First Time Ever

This weekend’s air raids in the Middle East set a lot of records. Iran carried out its first ever direct attack on Israel from Iranian territory, launching an unprecedentedly large swarm of drones and missiles against Israeli military bases. And for the first time in history, U.S. troops engaged in direct combat in defense of Israeli territory.

The U.S. military shot down three Iranian ballistic missiles and 70 drones that were en route to Israeli military bases, officials told CNN. American ships and fighter jets were involved in the operation. Videos shared online also purport to show U.S. ground troops in Iraqi Kurdistan firing antiaircraft missiles. The British and French militaries assisted in the operation, and Jordan reportedly shot down Iranian drones over its own airspace.

Although Israel and its protectors stopped most of the Iranian air raids, Iranian state media has claimed that Israel’s Nevatim Air Base was “damaged severely” and put out of service. Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari has denied this, saying that Nevatim was only slightly damaged and “continues to perform its tasks.” No deaths were reported.

Iran was retaliating for an Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, on April 1. That attack killed 16 people, including an Iranian general.

President Joe Biden, after pledging his full support to Israel for months, may have finally tapped the brakes. After Saturday’s air raids, he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States will not support an Israeli counterstrike on Iran, according to Axios, because Israel already “got a win. Take the win.” The New York Times reports that some members of the Israeli war cabinet wanted to attack Iran immediately but that Biden’s call talked them out of it.

Publicly, Biden condemned the “unprecedented air attack against military facilities in Israel” and promised to “coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack.” He confirmed that “we have not seen attacks on our forces or facilities today.”

Israel’s next moveand America’sis anyone’s guess.

Although the United States had not been informed of the consulate attack beforehand, Biden jumped to Israel’s aid afterward. When Iran threatened to retaliate, Biden promised to grant Israel ” ironclad ” support and to “do all we can to protect Israel’s security.” And he had Gen. Michael Kurilla, head of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, fly to Israel a few days before the Iranian retaliation.

Iran and Israel have flung violent threats and proxy attacks at each other for decades. While Iran has armed Hamas and other Palestinian rebels , Israel has assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists and bombed Iranian troops in Iraq and Syria with tacit U.S. support .

The Hamas attacks of October 2023 and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza escalated the conflict across the entire region. Iranian-backed forces in Yemen attacked Israeli shipping,Iranian-backed paramilitaries in Lebanon fired on the Israeli border, and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq broke their truce with the U.S. military.

Israeli leaders made it clear that they wanted to escalate and that they believed they had an American green light. Biden had to talk down Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant from launching a full-scale attack on Lebanon early in the war. But the U.S. president refused to place any actual limits on how many weapons the United States would send Israel or how Israel could use those weapons.

Early in the war, Biden showed that he was willing to put American lives on the line in Israel’s defense. Even though his administration insisted that it had “no plans or intentions to put U.S. boots on the ground in combat,” Biden deployed two aircraft carriers to the region as a threat to any other country that might join the war against Israel.

From Israeli leaders’ perspective, the consulate attack was a win-win situation. Either Tehran would not retaliate, making Iranian leaders look weak, or it would retaliate, forcing Biden to make good on his commitments and bring U.S. power to bear against Iran.

Iranian leaders chose the second scenario, betting that Biden’s commitment to Israel was not as “ironclad” as he claimed. Explaining Tehran’s reasoning, an Iranian source told the news site Amwaj.media on Thursday that “the U.S. is not ready to go to war with Iran.” But although Biden did come to Israel’s defense, he appears unwilling to push the conflict any further.

Left out of the conversation entirely were the American people. Congress has not passed a declaration of war against Iran or authorization for the use of military force against Iranian troops. It hasn’t even passed the supplemental aid package to Israel that Biden has been asking for.

Lawmakers from both parties have called this weekend for Congress to pass the package, although Democrats and Republicans disagreed on whether it should also include aid to Ukraine.

That wasn’t the only way legislators reacted differently to the air raids. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (RTenn.) demanded that Biden “launch aggressive retaliatory strikes on Iran.” Rep. Adam Smith (DWash.), on the other hand, called for “calm and restraint.” Without naming Israel or Iran, libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (RKy.) was more blunt about the stakes than anyone else: “I’m against the next war already.”

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